Financial Management/ Planning

Consumers Expect to Spend Slightly Less on Holidays This Year

Washington, D.C. – Consumers report slightly lower intended holiday spending in 2015 than they reported in 2014, according to the 16th annual holiday spending survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Credit Union National Association (CUNA).  In both years, the same percentage (10%) said they would spend more; however, more people this year (38%) than last (33%) said they would reduce their spending.

“Holiday spending is likely to rise by 2.5% to 3% from last year’s level” said CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel. “Although positive, that would be a disappointing increase considering the improved financial condition of US households.”

Despite this expression of consumer restraint, the CFA-CUNA survey also revealed signs that the economic recovery continues.  The proportion who reported an improved financial condition, compared to the previous year, continued to increase, as the following table reveals.

Personal Financial Condition Compared to a Year Ago

2011    2012    2013    2014    2015

Better              19%     24%     24%     28%     29%

Worse              37%     33%     29%     24%     24%

In addition, those who said they had sufficient “extra funds” to “pay for an unexpected expense of $1,000” continued to increase from 2012 (the first year the question was asked), as the table below indicates.

Possession of Extra Funds to Pay an Unexpected $1,000 Expense

2012    2013    2014    2015

Yes                  49%     49%     50%     54%

No                   50%     49%     47%     44%

“Despite lingering public dissatisfaction with the slow rates of growth, our survey reveals some improvement in the financial condition of Americans,” noted Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America.  “Still, the fact that more than two-fifths of Americans report that they lack sufficient extra funds to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense is cause for concern,” he added.  Also, the surveyed revealed that the proportion who said they are concerned about meeting monthly debt payments remained high and unchanged, from last year, at 43 percent.

Not surprisingly, the variable that explains expected spending and reported financial condition the most is income.  The higher one’s income, the less likely one is to report financial distress and deterioration, as the table below suggests.

Relation of Spending and Financial Condition to Household Income

<$25k       $25-50k           $50k-75k         $75-100k         >$100k

Spend less            47%                 37%                 38%                 30%                 37%

Fin cond worse     34%                27%                 17%                 19%                 17%

No extra funds      79%                52%                 36%                 17%                 12%

Debt concern         57%                52%                 41%                 26%                 23%

Correlating spending plans with financial condition reveals that those reporting a worse financial situation, concern about making debt payments, and lack of extra funds for emergencies are predictive of expecting to spend less money this holiday season.

CUNA/CFA Tips for Shopping Cooperatively During the Holiday Season

If you want to support a different way of doing business this holiday season, here are some ways to patronize cooperatives:

  • Join a credit union. Credit unions offer the same services as banks, but because they’re financial cooperatives, they’re not-for-profit and can offer members lower rates and fewer fees. They also strive to educate and empower their members to become financially capable;
  • Search for cooperatives in your community. A simple Google search of “cooperative” or “co-op” should turn up nearby examples–grocers, coffee shops, breweries and bakeries are common candidates for a cooperative business model; and
  • Look to other name brands. REI, Ace Hardware and True Value are all cooperatives.

With its network of affiliated state credit union leagues, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) serves America’s credit unions, which are owned by more than 100 million members. Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives providing affordable financial services to people from all walks of life. For more information about CUNA, visit or follow @CUNA on Twitter. For more information about credit unions, and follow @asmarterchoice on Twitter. Visit the CUNA Press Room for a full listing of media mentions, press releases and resources to stay informed on current events within the credit union industry.

Contact: Vicki Christner, CUNA, 202-508-6754; Jack Gillis, CFA, 202-737-0766

The Consumer Federation of America is a nonprofit association of more than 250 consumer groups that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.